When I started writing for The Dream Shake all the way back in 2010, Houston was mired in what would be a three year stretch of mediocrity. The worst place to be in the NBA is the ninth seed in the Western Conference. You’re just good enough to have hope that you can make the playoffs, but not good enough to get into the dance. Your reward for fielding a competitive team each year? A pick at the end of the lottery, unlikely to snag a franchise-altering player.
James Harden changed the Houston Rockets. No longer were they plucky underdogs who couldn’t get over the lottery hump. They were in the playoffs every year. Expectations went from “Let’s make the playoffs” to “Let’s win a title.” A Chris Paul hamstring injury followed by a dumb trade for Russell Westbrook snapped Harden’s championship window in Houston shut. I’m not pleased with how his time here ended, but he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen play basketball and it was a joy to watch him during his run in Houston.
With that being said, there are more basketball games to be played, and with the playoffs expanded to 10 teams (with teams 7-10 entering the play-in tournament), lots of teams will feel like they have a playoff-caliber roster. Once the Rockets get Victor Oladipo in town, we’ll get a better idea of what the Rockets will look like moving forward. I’m glad for Stephen Silas, who will now get to coach a team that wants to be here, though obviously we’re still unsure of how Oladipo feels about the trade.
Anyway, the San Antonio Spurs are 6-5 and have won four of their last five. That includes wins over both Los Angeles teams. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Lakers blew out the Rockets twice this week. So by the transitive property, the Spurs should be favored by 50 tonight.
A buddy of mine reminded me of the Kawhi Leonard trade yesterday. He pointed out that the Spurs traded a top 5 player along with 3-and-D dynamo Danny Green and received DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a pick that became Keldon Johnson. When measured against that, the Rockets received a king’s ransom for Harden.
Also, in case you thought the Rockets and Spurs were done jockeying for position, the two franchises almost mirror each other now in terms of salary, with both teams dropping plenty of salary off their books this summer and next. That means that they will likely be competing over the same free agents. So that’s a fun thought.
Tip-off is at 6:30pm CT on TNT and AT&T SportsNet Southwest